Saturday, February 17, 2018

Why I left Twitter....

This is (mostly) for me....

Mortal clams, mortal words.

This is an experiment.

I am mortal. So are you. My heart's been bouncy this week, nothing extreme, more like a polite panhandler trying to get my attention, nothing threatening, and it did.

I no longer pretend I know what's real--the dulling of age, the explosion of what's possible, it all becomes confusing. (I've had a lot of concussions.) But I know who I trust.

I have more time for the guitar, for the uke, for learning French (we're traveling to Paris in a few months), for raising Brussels sprouts, for clamming, for dancing and singing and living.

No one gives a fuck on Twitter who I am. But I do.
And so do a few folk I care about.

My blog started out as a public diary.
And it's ending the same way.

I could blame the switch from 140 characters to 280--I truly loved the game, the succinctness, the love of the value of a single word.

But that's not it.

It's the mortality.

You want to meet, want a postcard, want to connect, send me an email, and I'll respond with an old-fashioned letter.

Thursday, February 15, 2018

Off the beaten trail (again)....

A dead drum, Delaware Bay.

Facebook is immortal.
Twitter is immortal.
I am not.

David Knuffke asked a simple question on Facebook recently. Is the benefit of a tool worth its cost? The question has been asked before, and humanfolk have dived into its implications for, well, literally thousands of years.

Ancient Greek phoilosopher? David Knuffke?

But not this time. The AP Bio FB group circled the wagons, defending their group without considering the question.

And then I knew it was time to go....

You want to share thoughts, drop me a line.
If not, that's fine, too.

Sunday, February 4, 2018

Death on the Delaware Bay

The fish after losing consciousness....and yes, fish are conscious.
I looked for crocuses, but found none, so I went to the north side of the Cape May ferry jetty today, one of my pondering places, maybe the pondering place. The afternoon was February bleak.

The south breeze was about 8 or 9 knots, but the water was flat next to the rocks. I was hoping to find a seal (and I'm always hoping I'll see the spout of a whale again).

I saw a swirl, I thought. Then I saw it again.

A small striped bass, maybe 4 or 5 pounds, was cutting across the surface. It was not well.

A ferry was on its way in. Ferries cause a lot of current on both sides of the jetty. I know because I watch. (I do not understand the physics, but I know what I see.)

The bass fought against the surge, and when the surge reversed, as it does, the bass slammed headfirst into the rocks.

It floated sideways unconscious, the gills still weakly moving.
And then nothing.

I've watched a lot of humans die, including my parents. I've killed a lot of the living, and some would argue I killed my Mom as I eased her pain with increasing doses of morphine and Fentanyl.

I watched a manchild die on his 18th birthday, back when cystic fibrosis meant early death, when he was finally old enough to demand his breathing tube be removed.

And I am always, always shocked by death's finality. The myth of the soul helps us grasp death's final incomprehensibility, but it's just that. A myth.

I went home and picked some kale, in the middle of winter. We will eat it this week.
This is not a metaphor, a fable, a parable.

It's just life.

Maybe I needed the reminder. 

Educon 2018: Part II

I've been to a few conferences, and they typically end with "WE'RE GONNA CHANGE THE WORLD!" And then we go home all fired up and go back to what we've always done, for better or worse.

Educon was different--the sessions  I attended were not hypothetical woo-woo love-fests. I saw what others were doing, what has been working, and what needs working on. The conversations focused on the possible, on the now, on the work being done.

No, Sir Ken did not keynote this year. 

I've been to a few conferences, and they typically feature education rock stars--personality often trumps pedagogy. Groupies vied for selfies with their favorite silver-haired snakes.

Educon was different--it's not that groupies were not welcome (seems anyone who doesn't mind a healthy dose of criticism is welcome), but there noticeably little fawning (if any). The Science Leadership Academy students ran the show, and not one of them had silver hair (though at least one had a strikingly green mohawk*).

Disclosure: I did get a traveler mug. (Photo from here.)

I've been to a few conferences, and they typically feature lots of swag. You toss goodies into a free bag, shove them into your luggage, and find them when you pack for your next trip.

I got very little swag, and what I got was because I was a presenter--a wonderful Educon traveling mug and a few pieces of Peanut Chews that nourished me on the train trip home.

Inside SLA, via Education Week
I've been to a few conferences and they typically herd folks like tourist in the White House--you see what the tour guides want you to see when they want you to see it. Nothing is askew, and everything is timed.

We had free rein at the Science Leadership Academy building. We could wander anywhere, and we did. The building looks like mine (and probably yours if you work in a public school). Yes, I saw a broken outlet, but in the same room I got to sit in on an impromptu get together with folks sharing thoughts as the sunlight streamed through the large southern window.

SLA Ultimate team and alumni, and a post well worth reading

I've been to a few conferences that had a few folks of color and, of course, the requisite panel member (might be gay, might be black, might be some wack-a-doodle with a British accent) who is supposed to cover up a lot of sins, but cannot cover up the original one.

SLA is an intentional community, and Educon reflects this.

I got called out a few times over the weekend, (mostly) gently, and always with reason--for some behaviors I am aware of, a couple of times for things I had not realized. I expected as much, and am grateful for it.

"Mohawk" is a word I use with trepidation-- but I know more about the Pawnee now than I did an hour ago.

Educon does not pay its presenters (besides the swag), and even Chris Lehman, the Principal and founder of SLA, pays to go.
The money goes back to the school to support its 1:1 program.

Wednesday, January 31, 2018

Educon 2018, Part I

I got into medicine damn near accidentally. I left with intention.

Which is not to say I did not belong there while I did it, nor does it mean I did not enjoy it. But I left to become a teacher, and it was a good decision. Still, nobody asks "Why did you go into teaching?"

The question I'm asked:
"Why did you leave medicine?"
There are a lot of reasons teaching is better than medicine (and many reasons why medicine beats ed), but one thing medicine has all over education is the Morbidity and Mortality Conference, a regular meeting where, behind (mostly) closed doors, we dissected each other's mistakes.

Some mistakes cost limbs, some cost lives.
We made the mistakes, we were made to own them.

I have argued long and loudly that our profession is too nice, we play too well together, we fear criticism.

And then I went to Educon, a convention held at the Science Leadership Academy in Philadelphia, founded by Chris Lehmann.

He's the one on the left, photo via Jose Vilson's work.
We dissected each other, publicly and passionately. In the next few weeks I hope to share a bit of what I learned in Philly last weekend (including do not smack cars even if it's pushed you off the crosswalk, Philly Pholk are a tad sensitive).

But let me start with this--Educon made me proud to be a pubic high school teacher.

Turns out I'm not the only one who does not play nice....

Sunday, January 21, 2018

January beach walk

The air warmed up, the beach did not--ice and snow lay just beneath the sand. I went barefoot anyway.

Not much to say, except to say words cannot say what I would want to say. Four scoters waddling by, occasionally dipping under for food. A gull slamming a dying crab on the sandbar. A tiny flock of five sand pipers sharing nine legs.

Oysters scattered on the beach, torn off the rocks by last week's ice, still alive. The sand will swallow them up if the birds don't get them first.

Death all around, but death is always all around--it's easier to see when the living retreat for the season.

The deep January colors and long shadows reminded me not who I am as much as what we are part of--but that's a conceit. There was no me for long moments. Or maybe everything was me, which is impossible, of course. Words fail.

When I came back, my tracks had filled with water, which then sought the bay, as water will.

This one is for me.

Tuesday, January 16, 2018

Your screen or your knife?

An essential quality of technology, from the spear to Skype, is action at a distance. Technology enables us to have an effect on people and things far away. In general, the more advanced the technology, the further away it is able to impose an effect. 

Our lives cost the lives of others. That's always been true, and will be so long as we breathe.

Technology allows us to forget this.
Technology encourages us to forget this.

Experts spew on about a global community, but their hands never touch the blood and feces of the life around them. They barely touch their own.

You want every child "connected"? So do I.
It's what's at the other end of the connection that matters.

I have killed other living things, deliberately, but not slowly.
I have slaughtered animals with stones, with knives, with awareness.

We pretend the machines bring us knowledge.
We confound information with awareness.

I wish we spent as much time teaching a child how to use a knife as we do a Chromebook.

I could live without my computer a lot easier than living without my knife.
Modified from a few years ago.